social media

Holidaying in Sepia: thoughts of a postmodern luddite

January 23rd, 2015 by Alec Spencer | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Holidaying in Sepia: thoughts of a postmodern luddite
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Lanz2I once said to my son, who is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, that the medical profession should get ready for cases of phone-itis. All he did was to laugh. And since then he sometimes recalls what I said and laughs again. I can’t see what’s so stupid about my observation? After all, with the development of the typewriter and the keyboard doctors are seeing cases of repetitive strain injury – all those fingers seizing up!

Just walk along the street and every other person is on their mobile phone, talking to someone – somewhere on this planet. Perhaps they are not really doing so? If they are lonely, friendless, then perhaps they are only pretending to speak to someone else – so that others will think they are just like them. And of course, those with ear-phones – so that they appear to be talking to themselves, or arguing violently with themselves – no wonder our mental health services are so overloaded. And those blue-tooth earpieces, with little blinking blue lights – we now have remote controlled aliens driving our taxis.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, people walking around holding their phones to their ears and chattering away. Now, I know that when I do that, after a few minutes I start getting aches in my muscles around my elbow. So I switch arms for a few minutes, then back again and so on. The pain is not quite tennis elbow, which can come from a burst of activity in the arm muscles – but I’ve not done any decorating or violin playing recently. So, I thought phone-itis would describe the phenomenon – and since millions of people are always on their phones – then a proportion of these will start suffering similar pains. “So get ahead of the rest of the medical profession and ‘discover’ and treat phone-itis“, I said. He just laughed.

What is the world coming to? Everybody appears to need a personal communication device of some sort. Some people have a range of them – their mobile phone, a tablet, a computer, a notepad and so on. I remember going into a mobile phone shop and asking for something that was just a phone. They laughed. It had a megapixel camera, wifi and bluetooth connectivity, and it could connect to the G8 or something like that. It had GPS, email, diaries and could probably have switched on my washing machine remotely, since it could seemingly control my television and probably attempt to control my life. It had applications by the score – so I had better call them apps. And it had games so that I could spend all day moving bricks around a screen, killing-off pac-men or playing solitaire. I think it also had a device for phoning home or friends hidden among the icons for facebook or twitter. Did I want to occupy the Cloud – or was that simply where my head was?

So I have my personal communication device and I can send messages in so many ways that by the time I have decided whether it is better to send it via the phone signal or wifi, and whether it should be an SMS text, email, twitter or whatever, I have forgotten what it was I was going to say.

It is wonderful to be able to Skype or Facetime ones friends and family. But why do they always seem to want to make visual contact while I am sitting on the loo?

Do we really need to be connected to the rest of the world? Is it important to know what one’s @personal_guru is thinking or eating for #breakfast? Who do you follow? A football player? A pop-star, fashion icon, writer, politician, fruit-and-nut-case, artist, your boss or a friend? And why? What is so important about reading their latest whim or comment, re-tweet or joke?

Now, I can have new aspirations. My social media presence needs a makeover. I’m a social nobody if I don’t have at least 500k followers or if my latest YouTube submission hasn’t gone viral. How can I live in cyberspace and hold up my head with only 53 followers and 69 hits?

I am thinking about my next holiday in the sun and worrying about whether I will remember to take the phone and ipad chargers and the European travel plugs. And then, when we are away wherever we are in the world, we will have to make sure that we take pictures of ourselves relaxing by the pool, reading a book and drinking sangria and send them off as proof that we are actually there. When we saw those first pictures of an American space ship landing on the moon, there were loads of conspiracy theories offering an alternative view that the landings were filmed in a studio somewhere. So we are on holidays and ask at reception for the wifi code, and we get a small piece of paper with some strange hieroglyphics which would make MI5 proud. Or will I just use the guest wifi in the café next door? Do we really want to know the temperature for the next two days or that Andy Murray has blown it again at the quarter-finals?

I’m thinking about a relaxing holiday – if that’s not an oxymoron? Reading my printed book on the plane without having to close it on take-off and landing. Being able to enjoy a meal without getting a phone call from an ambulance chasing law firm asking me if I’ve been sold PPI, or doing a Sudoku in the morning without having to contemplate an urgent email. How did we all survive when the world was only in black and white? Did we just forget about others and simply enjoy the here and now?

Can we still find peace and calm in a modern world? The Pope now uses twitter to communicate with his flock. Even he will want to put down his mobile when he turns to prayer? Perhaps there will be a notice in church that reads “No tweeting during services (unless to @God)”.

So I hope for a quiet, technological free, time on holidays. Now all of you can have a laugh!

Visiting Speaker – Alastair Horne

May 2nd, 2013 by Laura Jones | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker – Alastair Horne
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Alastair Horne‘s visit to Stirling on March 28th was much anticipated on Twitter, with talks the night before of red carpets and royal carriages on the 8:30am Edinburgh to Stirling train which students and tutors alike frequent to make the 10am start. Those of us lucky enough to take the Digital Process & Product module had a double dose of Alastair as he taught a class on digital start-up business models before taking up his position as visiting speaker at 2pm.

So as to avoid spilling the beans of our innovative, game changing business models (well, we hope) I will focus on Alastair’s visiting talk on the wonders of social media. Alastair himself has 10 years of experience in publishing, is the social media and communities manager at Cambridge University Press ELT with a personal Twitter account of 3.6k+ followers, a professional global Twitter account, a Facebook page for CUP ELT with 33k likes, fortnightly webinars… I could go on. Let’s just say Alastair knows what he’s talking about when it comes to social media.

His emphasis rested on building relationships with readers. Publishers need to let readers in, let them peek behind the curtain and feel part of the process. As the talk inevitably turned to Amazon, Alastair highlighted that their relationship with publishers is no longer mutually beneficial considering Amazon refuses to share stats and data. For this reason, publishers need to battle Amazon for reader loyalty. Nurturing a genuine relationship with readers is the best chance publishers have at reducing Amazon’s suffocating monopoly.

So, how does one go about shaping these vital relationships? Alastair offers two options.

1. Go to where the readers and conversations already reside and partake.
2. Create a new platform to start conversations and entice readers in. This option means not having to rely on a third party, particularly important if the conversation is, say, on Goodreads which is suddenly obtained by Amazon.* The rewards are greater for this harder option as Alastair pointed out that it took one year for CUP ELT to blossom from idea to actuality.

For publishers specifically, they need to learn to use social media effectively and to their advantage, for these 5 reasons.

1. Search visibility – Facebook Group graphs can offer great data about who is finding your page and how. Google+ brings together the social and the search by providing personalised search results through network lists.
2. Marketing – publishers must be stealthy with marketing and not post too many hard sales.
3. Customer support – Twitter can offer immediate customer support, turn a negative into a positive should someone be able to fix a problem quickly and efficiently.
4. Market research – where Goodreads was recommended as a valuable site for research.
5. Building relationships – the most important element. Trust must be built over time so publishers become part of readers’ lives. This kind of investment is long term and many publishers are too impatient to invest, especially as it’s time consuming and impossible to measure the direct effect.

And because Alastair loves a good list (who doesn’t?!) he also provided 12 suggestions for social media success.

1. Find home – you don’t need to be on every social media platform, find a platform that works best for your needs and make yourself at home.
2. Be regular – post daily on Facebook, 5x or more on Twitter, not too much, not too little. Spread out those posts.
3. Be prompt and responsive – you’re not a broadcasting station, engage with your readers, know when someone has mentioned you and don’t rely on scheduled tweets, you run the risk of looking mechanic and less human. Keep track of what your audience is discussing.
4. Involve the whole team – not just marketing, get everyone on board who is active and enthusiastic on social media, also get authors involved.
5. Share enthusiasm – let your audience know you’re excited about books. Let them see behind the scenes, the production, it can generate some very real excitement.
6. Involve the audience – get to know who shares and reads your content, make them feel valuable.
7. Encourage sharing – make it easy for your readers to share your content, create content that people will want to share.
8. Curation – you’re not the only source of good content, share other people’s content and involve the network you’re using. Add value by offering your voice to a retweet, don’t just mechanically RT something you find interesting, comment on it.
9. You’re a person – no one wants to talk to a corporation, introduce the team and open yourself up to your readers.
10. Re-purpose content – alter content for different platforms, make it applicable over the networks you’re using.
11. Take the conversation elsewhere – as above, don’t rely on those third parties.
12. Work out what’s working – all about analytics and tracking people. If it’s broke, fix it!

And so ends a crash course in social media. I was greatly encouraged by Alastair’s enthusiasm towards social media and the opportunities it can create for publishers, should they learn to use it to their advantage. I fully agree that publishers can’t create meaningful relationships with their readers fast enough. The sooner the better. Alastair was a fantastic guest and continues to be a fantastic presence on Twitter as he tweets valuable content from afar keeping true to his own advice.

*The day ended on a sour note as Amazon acquired Goodreads only hours after Alastair completed his talk, part of it recommending Goodreads as a valuable area of reader data and relationships for publishers. The irony was not lost.

Laura Jones (cross posted to

“Small publishers and start-ups have lots of opportunities right now!”

April 27th, 2012 by Kate_McNamara | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on “Small publishers and start-ups have lots of opportunities right now!”
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The Publishing Studies Visiting Speaker series went out on a high with a visit from Sara Hunt of Saraband. The perfect blend of information, optimism and advice, this was a fitting end to our course. At a time when much of the publishing industry are wringing their hands and quaking at digital advancements and social media marketing, Sara Hunt is smiling; “Be creative! Have fun!”. And Saraband certainly are. Rather than panicking in the face of change, Saraband have embraced social media and the many hours of work which it demands. “When you get it right,” Sara says, “it’s absolutely time well spent.”

Saraband began experimenting with social media in 2010 in order to promote Making Shore, the debut novel by Sara Allerton. Using a variety of sites they reached out to their customers and to bookgroups to get people talking about the book, and this was a great success. “Go out and do it,” Sara advises.“You can replicate it for all of your subsequent titles, and then it really will be worth while.”

However, it’s not enough to just use social media. You need to set yourself apart from all the multitudes of people and companies who are quickly catching on. Saraband do just that. Between their backwards rendition of Auld Lang Syne for Burns night and their April Fool’s day  blog announcement of whisper audiobooks to lull you to sleep (“the number of people who fell for it just because we used a standard format!”) not only do they not balk at the idea of social media, but they use it inventively, and with a sense of humour.

“If we can do it, you can too!” It’s a far cry from our furrowed brows and worried looks, which have accompanied the final days of our course, and an awful lot more appealing.

As the final minutes of the session ticked away and we began to realise with nervous apprehension that this was our last class, Sara delivered her closing words:

“This is a really brilliant time to be completely can-do…everything boils down to ingenuity, your ideas, and your commitment to working hard to follow things through.”

Saraband’s future is certainly bright, and thanks to the optimism of this final talk, we are more optimistic about the brightness of our own.

– Kate McNamara

Publishing Scotland Annual Conference 2012

March 4th, 2012 by Victoria_Sugden | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Scotland Annual Conference 2012
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This year the Publishing Scotland Annual Conference took place at Edinburgh’s Royal College of Physicians on Monday 27 February. Following registration and a number of freebies, an assortment of publishing professionals and students congregated in the main auditorium (at a somewhat vertiginous height!) ready to catch the pearls of wisdom thrown their way.

After a warm welcome from the Chair and Chief Executive of Publishing Scotland, Bob McDevitt and Marion Sinclair, the conference was in motion. The most engaging speeches, for me, were delivered in the morning session. The key note speech came from Alan Clements, Director of Content at STV on ‘Future-Gazing-what’s in store for media and culture in the next few years.’ Clements pushed that in this day and age there is an issue of content, rather than the means of distribution in broadcasting and publishing. After all, “content is king” Clements later declared. Ultimately, Clements argued that publishing and TV should be more engaged than they already are. He also stated that Scotland has become the “other” in UK terms, thus publishers and TV should work together to create new Scottish-centric material.

Steve Bohme, Research Director of Book Marketing Ltd gave an insightful talk on key retail market trends. His decision to use a weddings metaphor in his slides was very effective but left some of us disheartened with the lack of real cake during refreshments…

Then came the presentation that was a firm favourite of mine, Social Media Consultant, Jon Reed speaking about ‘Publishing Direct-reaching readers online using social media.’ Social media is certainly proving to be one of the principle ways to reach consumers as Reed presented the staggering facts of there being two billion people online, 850 million on Facebook and approximately 500 million Twitter users worldwide! Reed was very insightful and revealed numerous ways to reap the benefits of social media marketing that many social media fiends would not even think of!

The afternoon sessions were less digitally focused but nonetheless enlightening with talks ranging from metadata (from Nielsen Bookscan) to Scottish library partnerships. At the end of proceedings Publishing Scotland kindly set up a Q&A session for us students, which gave us a valuable 45 minutes to grill those already in the industry.

My thanks go to Publishing Scotland for a fascinating and well-organised day.

– Vicky Sugden

Image by Sandy Young Photography